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Portables as Servers?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the today's-portables-are-yesterday's-servers dept.


vincecate asks: "Do portables make reliable Linux servers? The power on the island where I live is very unreliable. With the screen off the battery should last through a long power outage. I could even put on a UPS and have it last a day. My servers have little load (DNS and some web). Prices on portables are getting reasonable. Can anyone report on using portables as servers?"

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Offshore hosting? (4, Insightful)

Gyga (873992) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385101)

If you use such little server space/bandwidth it could be more cost productive to get one of the multiple under $5 plans that some hosting companies have.

Sadly I have no experiance with portables though.

Re:Offshore hosting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15385485)

Sadly I have no experiance with portables though.

Nor with spelling, it would seem.

Re:Offshore hosting? (1)

Doodens (955248) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385605)

An absolute control over even smallest server costs much more than that.

Re:Offshore hosting? (1)

Basje (26968) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385675)

$15 for a vps, running debian and having root access. I used tektonic for a while, but there are others out there.

Unless you have very exotic wishes, it's excellent for most servers. They won't take much load tho.

Re:Offshore hosting? (1)

HaydnH (877214) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385774)

$15 sounds like a lot for a vps to me! For example, I use Westhost [westhost.com], who offer a linux vps for $3.95 without MySQL or $6.95 with. I'm sure there's probably cheaper around but I've found them to be quite good.

Re:Offshore hosting? (1)

GiMP (10923) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386323)

The host you mentioned doesn't provide the user with root access to their VPS. Plus, at that price point they're clearly chroot solutions.

Other hosts [xensource.com] like these [google.com] provide Xen VPS hosting which gives full root access and more hardware resources. They can reboot their virtual server and install their own kernels and kernel modules. With any decent provider, users get provisioned their own partitions on top of an LVM volume group.

Pretty much anything claming to be a VPS under the $14.95-$19.95 price point will be a chroot solution. You're lumped onto a big partition with everything else, you have shared memory allowing for abuse, you can't reboot your "machine", and some providers still won't give you root!

This isn't to say that a chroot solution might not be right for you, but it is not without its limitations. For someone looking for "just as good as the real thing, but cheaper", they will want Xen. If you're just looking for something more flexible than standard hosting plans, a chroot VPS (with root access) *may* do the trick.

Re:Offshore hosting? (1)

HaydnH (877214) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386444)

Strange, they must've changed something... I used to be able to ssh in with root access - being able to "init 6" etc... I just ssh'ed in and I can no longer do this! Grrrr! Will have to talk to customer support.

Re:Offshore hosting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15386347)

I'd use the VPS acronym only when it involves having a virtualized server and root access to it. That means everything can be done given some memory/disk constraints, except choosing the kernel version. I guess you're probably referring to a plan where server software comes preinstalled, I'd consider it managed hosting (which is great for most people anyway)

laptop = desktop = server (4, Informative)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385116)

with some caveats:

I/O on a laptop likely to suck, due to compromises in HD size/speed/DTR
limited memory upgradeability...but do you need 16GB in a laptop doing 'light duty' as a server?

I've run L.A.M.P stuff and Samba on an old K6-400 laptop, and it ran fine.

Re:laptop = desktop = server (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385886)

I/O on a laptop likely to suck, due to compromises in HD size/speed/DTR


Some people will tell you that fragmentation hardly matters on modern hard disks. I can tell you from experience that it makes a huge difference on laptop hard disks. I've also seen Windows laptops come formatted with small block sizes, which makes the problem worse. So, right off the bat I'd say use a file system that is more resistant to fragmentation than NTFS. If you use NTFS, make sure your block size is large enough (installing from a boxed Windows) and get DiskKeeper, which can defrag your MFT.

Otherwise, a laptop serve do admirably for the kind of things you'd consider using a desktop pressed into service as a server. Things that don't require the reliability of SCSI, error correcting RAM, and enhanced technical support.

Re:laptop = desktop = server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15386892)

I have a really old Dell laptop as a server. It's a Latitude CP with a mobile pentiumMMX 233. I upped the RAM to 128megs and added a 200gig HDD in an external USB case. It runs fairly cool, especially considering it sits on my (small designed for audio) rack on top of my asterisk box and my smoothwall. No fans run, but there is one installed should the chip get too hot.

I can use it for basic FTP/backup stuff. I can't tell the difference between it as a server and my asterisk box (an AMD chip at 733mhz underclocked) I wouldn't want to try something like MediaWiki but for basic LAMP stuff it works great. I have FC4 installed with a cron job to update via yum every week. uptime is 49 days currently, only because that was when I set it up.

Laptop as Servers (1)

crass25 (884537) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385120)

I have a server thats a laptop. It runs apache, mysql, php. It runs really well. Just gets a bit hot. But thats expected. No problems at all.

Laptop as Servers??? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15386595)

Ok, so you have a laptop running as a server and it works for you. Does that mean that I should rip out all my quad processor servers and my SAN and all these SCSI disks and replace them with a laptop? I guess if I used VMWare, I could put em all on a single laptop!

I know I'm coming off as rude and I'm sorry but, let's be realistic. How about some facts and some numbers? How much data are we talking about and how fast does it need to be processed and moved about? How many people will be creating and accessing this data? You mention a SQL database. Is it performing 2,000 transactions per second or is it doing two transactions per day? Is a single 2.5 inch EIDE hard drive really up to the task? Does such a drive have enough space, speed, reliability? Or are you counting on some USB drive that's daisy chained off the laptop? Can an Intel mobile processor really match a quad Xeon processor server?

If you think your running a l33t server on a laptop because you managed to get Apache to serve the default page, that's great. But, most of the world wouldn't really regard your toaster's capabilities as being a server.

Some people may be able to argue the merits of SATA versus SCSI but, laptops aren't servers and no one can argue that!

Re:Laptop as Servers??? (2)

NRP128 (710672) | more than 7 years ago | (#15387119)

Just out of curiousity, did you read the f'ing question? If he's worried about the power going on a regular basis do you really think he's concerned with I/O and hosting something like slashdot? Sheesh, lighten up dude.

Re:Laptop as Servers??? (2)

toleraen (831634) | more than 7 years ago | (#15387272)

I know I'm coming off as rude

No, you're coming off as a complete dick. Do you honestly think that Vincecate was wondering if they could replace his quad Opteron server and couple TB RAID with a 1500 dollar laptop and an external USB hard drive??? He's obviously not doing 2000 transactions a second if his power goes out constantly. Remember what happens when the power goes out? Your Internet connection goes down. No connection to the outside world (or outside your "server" room for that matter) to process transactions. If his Internet connection goes down for a day, I'm guessing those 172800000 lost transactions would have a slight impact on business. Not to mention his question clearly states server load is pretty light.

I can probably safely assume that Vincecate is sick of power going off on a server without safely shutting down. I'd also guess he's not there to take care of their servers 24/7, so the laptop staying up for a full day would be ideal...they can just leave it and forget about it. Hell, he's probably like me, and is just plain lazy. So judging by his requirements (staying up with no AC source for longer than 10 minutes, handling a light server load), a laptop would work out just fine. My laptop handled it's basic server duties just fine when I used it for that.

Re:Laptop as Servers??? (1)

megabeck42 (45659) | more than 7 years ago | (#15412308)

>> I know I'm coming off as rude

> No, you're coming off as a complete dick.

We need a +1, "Situation appropriate smack-down."

Yes, if you can't use them for their intended role (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15385136)

It's actually a very good way to recycle lappies with a smashed screen. Over time, we made a beowulf cluter of those (imagine that, eh?) at my university. In that specific case, a problem is that some batteries are old and almost dead, so it still needs its own UPS... lots of space & power saving, though.

Wow! (1)

Unski (821437) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385833)

Someone mentioned 'Beowulf Cluster', and not as a tired /. joke! Someone has actually made a Beowulf Cluster of these. Fantastic!!!!!

I really want the reverse: VGA - IN for laptops (1)

arete (170676) | more than 7 years ago | (#15387318)

What I really want is VGA _in_ for laptops. I want to take any old laptop - with or without a functioning OS, and with or without it _running_ that OS - and plug IN the video from another PC or laptop. In short, I want to be able to retask a laptop with a functioning LCD as an LCD screen.

Furthermore, I want to be able to do this on the fly. I want to lay two laptops on the desk and have one span both displays. Most laptops these days support spanning into an external monitor, but most don't accept input.

(Synergy2 is cool, but you can't drag windows across it.)

(I'd be all about other retasking uses, too. The only other one that comes immediately to mind is that the last 7 years of mac laptops can be booted holding "T" to make them act as an external harddrive for another machine, and I have to give props to that.)

Re:I really want the reverse: VGA - IN for laptops (1)

Wolfrider (856) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389133)

--I'll give you an AMEN to that. ;-) VGA-IN for laptops is long overdue, and could be quite helpful.

--Talk to Apple, I'm sure they'd consider adding it as $feature to distinguish themselves in teh future.

Re:I really want the reverse: VGA - IN for laptops (1)

Myself (57572) | more than 7 years ago | (#15417937)

Okay, so I'm a few days late with this, but take a look at MaxiVista. It's Windows payware but it does exactly what you're talking about, and if you're not trying to squeeze everything across a 12Mbps USB1.1 network adapter, it's pretty snappy. (Real 100Mbps cardbus is quite nice. Gigabit even more so!)

I have to ask slashdot (1, Funny)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385139)

Convertibles as freigther?

Mods are from another planet (0, Offtopic)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385161)

They don't get it, they do not see the difference between a joke (good or bad, it does not mater) and trolling.


My setup (1)

SocialEngineer (673690) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385153)

I used to run an SSH/SOCKS proxy/home monitoring server on an old Thinkpad laptop. Worked really well.

I changed over to a Linksys router running the latest White Russian firmware, though, for the SSH/SOCKS part.

portable server advice (3, Interesting)

Fry-kun (619632) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385156)

The best advice I can give is - try to make it not use any moving parts in normal operations.
Boot is okay from either HD or CD, but it should have enough ram to not poll the HD. 512m is usually a good bet, 1g will definitely be enough for pretty much anything (aside from running a mysql server with a large db or something), if you calculate everything you may find that 256 is enough... Then make it turn off HD after 1 minute of operations. Disconnecting either the CD or the HD might be a good idea too. If you boot from a CompactFlash or similar card, you don't need HD/CD at all - even less electricity consumption.
Fewer moving parts translates directly into longer battery life and better performance (standard HD speed is still 5400 RPM on laptops). It'll probably live longer, to boot (pun intended)

Heat dissipation is another issue you may want to look into (if the CPU is not one of those new low-power ones.. if you have a 15W core duo, you're golden). Since it'll be a server, you can easily pop off the keyboard and bare the cooling pipes (better cooling performance).


Re:portable server advice (1)

vincecate (741268) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385683)

>The best advice I can give is - try to make it not use any moving parts in normal operations. I think this is very good advice. USB Flash does seem like the way to go. Do you need to do something so that logging does not wear out your flash though? (ramdrive?) I guess I can even software RAID a couple USB flash sticks too. I like the idea of having a backup USB for each system and a spare system that can be turned into whichever machine I need in an instant. Looking and thinking some more, going with a mini-itx system that is fanless/diskless could be the way to go. They seem to have even lower power CPUs than notebooks. And the notebooks that I have bought do have fans, though they are usually off. But I want servers to have nx-bit support, and I am not sure that the mini-itx fanless systems do.

Re:portable server advice (1)

Fry-kun (619632) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390900)

Yes, whatever logs you have go better onto a ram drive (you can make a script that syncs the ramdrive with the flash or the HD if you want - just make sure it doesn't happen very often)
RAID for USB devices is overkill, IMHO - you can buy a pretty cheap stick in the order of 1-2 GB (under $50). Also, depending on which type of RAID you set up, all nodes may get written to every time (striping RAID) which makes the MTFB fall incredibly fast (and you want to keep MTBF as high as possible, especially for a server)
Just re-read the OP: if all you need is dns/web, consider getting a linux-ready router. For example WRT54G [wikipedia.org] is/was a very nice modifiable one and has really low power requirements (compared to a laptop) - even lower if you disable the wireless connection. Doubt it has the nx-bit support, but do you really need it? NX-bit is there to prevent buffer overflow attacks - which only apply if data can be passed to the server. If you only use DNS and web browsing, you're reasonably safe from those.
Or if you want to go the way of mini-itx.. why stop there? go right for the micro-atx, or better yet Match Head Server [umass.edu] :)

Compact Flash on laptop servers (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388562)

RAM also burns a lot of heat - if you're using compact flash, you should be able to get away with less RAM in return for accesses to the flash. Older USB equipment can't boot from USB, but check your BIOS to see if you can. If you can't, you can still set things up to use a flash stick for much of your disk.

Re:portable server advice (1)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388822)

I wouldn't recommend having the hard drive time out, unless you can keep it from spinning up less than once every few days. Spinning up puts a lot more stress on a HD (especially low powered laptop drives) than simply maintaining velocity. Yes, it will use power and create heat, but it will have a failure rate. Be careful using solid state memory (Compact Flash, etc) for any file actions that are going to have a lot of writes/deletes because the failure rate for writing to these devices much much higher than hard drives. Probably better off just turning off all the external ports/devices except for keyboard and network. But definitely turn off the LCD, most laptops get twice the battery life without driving a display.

Otherwise I would get as much ram as you can afford to improve performance, and make sure the ventilation is decent (probably better off leaving the lid open to provide better air flow. Turn the LCD off with a screensaver. If you're still worried about losing power you can still get a UPS. Even one that will only provide 15 minutes of power to a desktop and monitor will provide much longer to a laptop, plus condition your power. (Which I would recommend since your electrical system sounds sounds kinda crappy and would help extend the life of your components.)

Relizble and convenient! (1)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385167)

Until you sit on them.


Re:Relizble and convenient! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15385555)

Relizble and convenient!

It broke your spellchecker.

On an unrelated note, why do I always get the following error message whenever (and only whenever) ScuttleMonkey is 'editing' Slashdot?

Database maintenance is currently taking place. Some items such as comment posting and moderation are currently unavailable.

Re:Relizble and convenient! (1)

Grab (126025) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388231)

Hint: there's a reason why it's called a lapTOP and not a lapBOTTOM...

As long as you have little load (1)

DoubleRing (908390) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385174)

If you get just a little traffic, you should have no problems. I used to have a site run off of a dsl connection (using dynamic dns) on a laptop. I took it down later, but it worked flawlessly, just read through the apache guides. One thing though, whatever you do, don't post it on slashdot.

The main problem... (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385179)

...is the hard drive - many laptops aren't built to run continuously and the HDD is likely to be the first thing to give out (I've gone through two drives in six months on an IBM laptop I ran 24x7).

See if you can boot off a USB flash drive, and increase RAM enough that you don't need swap - then you can remove the HDD and run without moving parts (unless it's a notebook with an internal fan, which I would not recommend).

Re:The main problem... (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385956)

Most of the time the reason a laptop is burning through hard drives has nothing to do with it being a laptop (or using 2.5" drives) and everything to do with being moved around with the hard drive spinning - in particular yawing (changing the direction the spindle is pointing, also known as tilting it.) This puts tremendous stress on the bearings in particular (and load bearing structures ie, where the heads and arms come together, but much less so) and quickly destroys the drive. Gyroscopic effects and all that.

Want your laptop hard drive to last as long as a desktop hard drive? Use it like a desktop : put it down on a hard, flat surface (ie, a table), turn it on, leave it there until you turn it off. Don't put it in your bouncy lap to use it, don't swing it wildly around with the drive spinning, don't flop it up under your arm sideways and carry it across the building still running. I have several laptops with drives ranging from two to five years old and they are reliable as ever.

Re:The main problem... (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 7 years ago | (#15387066)

Check Hitachi's TravelStar E7K60 and E7K100. Those are the server versions of their 7200 RPM laptop drives. ;)

(Then again, I prefer Seagate... dunno if they've got a server-oriented Momentus...)

It really depends... (1)

Hymer (856453) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385201)

You can buy / build a low power system with -48V DC PSU and drive it on normal car batteries for extended time... you could even charge them by a simple, cheap generator.
The weak point of your idea are the disk system... you could of course try with an external disk, PCMCIA/CardBUS SCSI or FireWire 800 adapters are available, but then you've got problems with power to the disk system.
I think the real question is how much diskspace is required and how intensive is the usage (of the disk), if you don't have heavy load on the disk a laptop is good enough. Keep them btw. away from dust...
This sig is designed for painless integration with the comment...

Durability is an issue (1)

egarland (120202) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385203)

Laptops generally aren't built to be on 24x7. The fans and harddrives would be my biggest concern. With clean air and frequent drive replacements it could work.

The real question this spurs is why don't servers have internal UPS's like laptops do and why aren't there ones designed for low power and long batery life. A laptop motherboard with several big UPS style batteries, a mirrored set of drives and some reasonable low power cooling fans could probalby live for up to a day on battery and still be quite a capable server.

Re:Durability is an issue (1)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385299)

The real question this spurs is why don't servers have internal UPS's like laptops do and why aren't there ones designed for low power and long batery life

Data center applications, where you'll find the majority of servers at, are already stuck with having big UPSes for all their equipment (not all of which is the servers). Why pay extra for an internal UPS for each piece when you can use the economies of scale to get a gigantic one that covers multiple pieces instead?

Also, the batteries in a UPS are a consumable; they go bad after some number of years. Not the sort of thing you want to have to take your server down to repair. With a UPS, you just switch to another, interchangable unit, and swap the battery then; server is only down for as long as it takes to reboot.

For a number of years now, there's been a big gap between the performance of desktop and mobile CPUs, with the desktop units having much better bus/memory speed in particular. The server chips have been the only ones with enough horsepower for many applications. While lower power consumption in a high-speed server has been available for a while via AMD's Quiet & Cool approach, Intel's switch to the Core architecture will further popularize making servers that consume less power. The current costs of energy (to run the server and to run the AC to cool it) are forcing performance/watt comparisons to really matter.

Re:Durability is an issue (1)

egarland (120202) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385382)

Why pay extra for an internal UPS for each piece when you can use the economies of scale to get a gigantic one that covers multiple pieces instead?

Because the solution offers superior reliability and no single point of failure. Its hard to protect from someone from unplugging the server from the UPS. With batteries in the box you are protected. Also.. it's hardly fair to call putting it in the server a UPS. With batteries in the computer there is no DC->AC->DC conversion. It's DC->DC which is much easier to make more efficient. This gives you more backup time with less battery.

Also, the batteries in a UPS are a consumable; they go bad after some number of years. Not the sort of thing you want to have to take your server down to repair. With a UPS, you just switch to another, interchangable unit,...

And with a laptop you can usually yank a battery out and put a new one in without so much as powering the machine down. With 2 batteries you can do one at a time and not even risk power failure if the AC power goes dead. No reboot necessary.

Centralized UPS systems also suffer from the "not my problem" problem. If battery life isn't the server designers problem, they don't optimize for it at all. And since 1 server doesn't usually affect he runtime of a big UPS that much people don't care if the new box uses 4x as much power and pulls a minute off the runtime of the centralized UPS. That one server now affects the runtime of all your machines now though. If each server has it's own interal power backup you could spec for only getting machines that will last 30 minutes on battery and not worry if the new box will pull that down to 25 minutes because it's usage won't affect the runtime of other boxes.

There are, of course, disadvantages too but I'd expect to see this as a more popular option.

Re:Durability is an issue (1)

tek.net-ium (841449) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386337)

Why pay extra for an internal UPS for each piece when you can use the economies of scale to get a gigantic one that covers multiple pieces instead?
Because the solution offers superior reliability and no single point of failure.
Except that the switch you're using is likely running off the same UPS.

Re:Durability is an issue (1)

lazarusdishwasher (968525) | more than 7 years ago | (#15387358)

switches are just single purpose computers there is no reason they can't have thier own battery as well.

I think it would be nice if every power supply had a battery or capacitor large enough to power the computer through a shutdown, modern programs and filesystems seem to handle random improper shutdowns better but it is nice to know everything was shut down properly.

as far as laptops as servers go the only difference in software between a server and a desktop are the programs that are installed. I have a pentium 4 1.7 ghz desktop and an amd athlon 1800+ laptop and they seem to give me about the same preformance. I would guess that if you found a laptop with the same specs as your current server you would see similar results.

Re:Durability is an issue (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#15387051)

In real data centers the UPS is just used to run everything until the back-up generator kicks in.
It is also a lot easier to manage a few big expensive UPS's than to keep track say 30 or 40 batteries. Then you have the cost. Laptop batteries are expensive Li-Poly batteries. USPs use nice cheap lead acid batteries usually gel-cells. They probably cost less than half what the Li-Poly cells would cost.
What you suggest might be good for a small office or home server but not for a data center. Even at home or a small office a traditional UPS is probably a better solution since there batteries are still cheaper to replace than any laptop.

Re:Durability is an issue (1)

Tavor (845700) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385390)

Like another poster said: Boot from Compact Flash/USB thumb drive/CD. It's do-able.

Re:Durability is an issue (1)

Tower (37395) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388402)

Some servers have had battery backup units in them - a more common solution are rackmount UPSs. This removes all of the power coversion heat from the server chassis itself, allowing more 1U/2U/4U style items (as well as things like a BladesCenter) while keeping the UPS localized to a rack (where the power cables should be secured and not easily knocked out) as well as easing battery replacement while the servers are still up.

Once you get into the higher end servers, you start to see the PSUs separate from the computing complexes separate from the I/O complexes anyway.

Re:Durability is an issue (1)

TClevenger (252206) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390420)

I use a Dell Latitude D800 (P-M 1GHz) with a broken screen and 128MB of RAM to record some live Internet streams and act as my podcatcher. With an 18GB 4200 RPM drive spinning and the screen closed, it draws a mere 14 watts at idle and lasts at least 3 hours on a 2 year old battery. (I also have a UPS hooked up for when the battery dies.) The 1GHz processor means it can get up and go when it needs to, without burning 48 watts just sitting there like a desktop.

Running FC4 in runlevel 3, I can run sox, lame or mplayer without dipping into the swap. The fan comes on occasionally when the room gets hot during an encoding session, but otherwise the fan never runs.

My last laptop, a Toshiba Tecra (PIII/650, same idle power consumption), was in service almost 2 years in this application. It was still working fine when I replaced it with the faster Dell. It's great for personal use, to keep the power bill down, but I don't think I'd trust a mission-critical application to it.

Re:Durability is an issue (1)

NecroBones (513779) | more than 7 years ago | (#15396798)

I have multiple laptops that I run 24x7 without disk failures so far. They've run nearly continuously for a couple of years. Granted, they're being used as light duty terminals, not servers, but I'd imagine that with a light load you're probably OK. If you can configure it to spin down the disk and power down the LCD when not needed, you're golden.

I'll definitely second the idea of going with a flash device. In fact, it's cheap and easy to get a CompactFlash to 2.5" laptop IDE adapter, and use a CF card as your main disk. I even found an adapter on ebay that fits into the standard 2.5" HDD form-factor. If you do so, you'll probably want to mount it with the "noatime" flag (a good idea anyway when you're trying to limit disk access), since it's writes, and not reads, that wear out flash memory... and the atime updates are arguably useless to most people.

BTW, part of the trick to it is to keep it from overheating. I use those "laptop cooler" stands. Seem to work well until the bearings wear out in the fans.

Re:Durability is an issue (1)

Wolfrider (856) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402854)

Suggest you replace the fans with ball-bearing type when they wear out; prolly came with Sleeve bearing, which only last about a year.

Low power / portables are great (2, Informative)

chaoskitty (11449) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385241)

(off topic - why is it that there's ALWAYS someone who answers a question like this with "do something that has nothing to do with your question, such as getting a $5 hosting provider"?)

I've used laptops in many places where a larger computer would not do. For instance, before you could buy wireless access points which would do real IP routing, I used to use recycled laptops to provide access via routed subnets. They can be placed in the ceiling, in closets, et cetera. One even spent a good bit of time in an awning in a storefront providing wireless access to Tompkins Square Park in NYC for a while. Of course, the "built-in UPS" is always good!

On another note, I'm running a site which hosts lots of video files and was slashdotted recently - usually two things which do not mix well. The server it runs on pushed 400 Mbps quite well, and it uses less than 30 watts measured at 120 volts - no, it's not a laptop, but it's made with many of the same parts - it's a Mac mini. If I were running a rack of these instead of your typical AMD or Pentium 4 systems, I'd be saving tons of money on power and cooling. Portables and low power devices make lots of sense, especially where it's abundantly clear that there is no need for machines which take 90 watts JUST for each CPU. (As one site recently pointed out, the Intel Core Duo is also quite performance competitive with high end AMD and Intel CPUs)

So the real question is why not? The only reason I can think of is if you were doing things which would involve thrashing the disk heavily. 2.5" hard drives are not particularly good for 24x7 thrashing. But if you were to get an external Firewire 3.5" drive, that wouldn't be an issue.

John Klos
ZiaSpace Productions

Re:Low power / portables are great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15387031)

How did you manage to get 400Mbps out of a mac mini? They only have 100mbps NICs.

Re:Low power / portables are great (1)

Wolfrider (856) | more than 7 years ago | (#15389187)

You can (IIRC) add another USB 2.0 NIC to a Mini. Then with full-duplex, you can easily get 400 if the links are saturated.

Farallon and D-link are two MF's I know of that mfr USB NICs.

Re:Low power / portables are great (1)

Myself (57572) | more than 7 years ago | (#15418568)

Ahh, why do I always find the good ones when the thread's days old?

For a server that gets slashdotted and pushes 400Mbps of traffic, the implication is that it's doing about 400Mbps outbound, and maybe 20Mbps inbound (ACK packets, requests, etc.).

How would a pair of full duplex 100Mbps links help with that? You've got 200Mbps out and 200Mbps in.

Data weenies are being misleading bastards when they count both directions. Nobody claims a 33.6k modem is actually pushing 67.2k because it's symmetric. Oh look, my car's engine is spinning 16,000 RPM! (Yes, 8,000 clockwise viewed from one side, and 8,000 counterclockwise viewed from the other side!)

Re:Low power / portables are great (1)

chaoskitty (11449) | more than 7 years ago | (#15392489)

My mini is a dual core Intel with gigabit ethernet. A testament to the power of low-power / portable hardware, for sure.

Sure. Why wouldn't it work? (1)

WoTG (610710) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385245)

As long as you are aware of the limitations, you'll be fine. For small scale use, the only one item that I would consider is whether or not you want RAID for hard disk storage -- you'll need to use external drives if you do. Otherwise the laptops are pretty much regular computers, albeit slightly slower, as far as these things go. Oh, and you won't have fancy remote management tools that medium and higher end servers have.

Yes, laptops have a build in ups (3, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385375)

No, their hardware sucks donkeyballs and they have very poor cooling. Ordinary PC hardware is not designed for server operation but can be pushed to do so if you accept some limitations.

A regular laptop will have even worse hardware. The HD especially is a weakpoint. However for non-heavy use where either the number of reads is limited or even avoided by loading everything in memory a laptop is just a lowend pc.

It can be very usefull as long as you don't expect it to perform the same as a real server.

The build in UPS is however very handy. I worked at an ISP where for some reason the power wasn't that stable for a year or so. Didn't matter for the important stuff because they were on a UPS like system but it did mean regular power failures in the offices (I think it was because workmen kept digging up the powerlines or something).

Anyway I put the ISP job to good use in the form of running my own FTP server. Hey, when you got a fat pipe you need to share it right? It is what I tell my gf anyway :P

It ran of an old laptop hidden in my cupboard (note, do not store chocolate in drawer above a laptop running 24/7) and it just ran regardless of power interruptions. Our workfloor test server was not so lucky and because it was badly adminned it never automatically recovered after a powerfailure.

So I developer on a laptop against my server laptop with power down all around me. Kinda cool although I now realize I was the only one working while everyone else was goofing around.

So yes, laptops can be used to overcome power outages. HOWEVER for what reason? In my case the network was on its own UPS. Will your laptop be as lucky?

No point in running a server when there is no network to serve right?

On the other hand if you can get a cheap UPS to power your network then the batteries of a laptop can last a long time especially if you add all the batteries you can by replacing the cd. Mine lasted through a 8 hour power outage once. The screen being off makes a huge difference.

Just remember heat and HD performance. Then again, I did have the old HD from that computer in my normal server (with adapter) running for years afterwards. I think HD reliability is severly underestimated.

Go for it. Just don't post your server on slashdot.

Re:Yes, laptops have a build in ups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15385692)

Desktops might not be designed for server operations...but they do really well even in mid-size companies. We have off-the-shelf desktops with high RAM, Software RAID 1 with 3 IDE Drives, and top notch power supply (and some extra cooling) and they do perfectly fine. Of course we don't have hundreds of clients for every server but rather around 50 per.

The cost benefit is pretty good considering the price of servers.

Re:Yes, laptops have a build in ups (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386067)

Laptop HD problems are easily solved by eSATA and PCMCIA [cooldrives.com] or ExpressCard [provantage.com] adapters (or Firewire/USB2). Of course, you'll need an additional UPS for the drives.

If you had heat problems, you could get a cheap external cooling solution, but as long as you're able to keep CPU usage down most of the time (so the CPU can clock down), you should be fine.

I wouldn't consider my laptop a "low-end" PC: at 1.66GHz dual-core and 2GB 667MHz DDR2, this system is much faster than the Athlon 64 system it replaced. It has gigabit ethernet, ExpressCard, and PCMCIA, so my connectivity options aren't limited. The only weak point is the hard drive, which could be solved with a fast external drive

If a Mac Plus can do it (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385536)

Some people still use Mac Pluses and such as web servers [jagshouse.com]. So if a Mac Plus can do it, a recent laptop computer can do it, even if it's not the most powerful solution.

We did it for more than a year... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15385606)

We actually had one e500 Laptop run ISA 2000 server for almost 2 years on and off.
Ran an additional PCMCIA card for dual interfaces and it acted as the proxy server for around 3000 computers into a 100Mb/s WAN link.

Its performance was shocking (disk I/O obviously) and we never really touched it. In fact due to the battery and UPS it had an uptime of 294days before it finally died in spectacular fashion (we deliberatley left it going till it died), when it was replaced with 2 large squid proxies.

So yes, Laptops will work as servers just fine, just don't expect significant I/O from them..

How about Mac Mini's? (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385672)

The older (PPC, pre-Intel) Mac Mini's draw about 20W at full tilt. Have been using them with Debian-PPC in mobile robotics. Haven't tried the newer Intel versions yet - they probably suck more, and in more ways than one.

Nobody else mentioned it, so (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385777)

Have you considered building a mini-itx based system running on DC/battery supply? You can get them to run off of a 12v car battery, and keeping one of those charged isn't too difficult, never mind that you could run of smaller 12v batteries.

Google for robots / mini-itx / dc power or any of the case modding freak sites. They are making a couple of motherboard systems just for DC operations, and not the kind that run for a few hours as a laptop... the kind that run like servers, just on DC power.

If your server / services are important enough to spend on a laptop, you might consider just building a DC powered server with a beefy battery system? No UPS needed, its built right in, and the thing is a server, not a laptop. You might start here http://www.mini-itx.com/store/?c=10 [mini-itx.com]

The other advice about not using the hard disk, adding memory, and others is good advice also. This solution allows a 7200-10000 rpm drive and plenty-o-ram options.

My experience (1)

dtam (969104) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385792)

Three used IBM ThinkPads:

Pentium MMX 166 with 48MB RAM: Running Tinydns.

Pentium II 300 with 288MB RAM: Running Tinydns and Postfix.

Pentium III 500 with 128MB RAM: Running Hylafax.

Every one of them is doing a great job for me.

A few questions, and suggestions (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386040)

What do you mean by "Server"? What's it serving? The web site that you use to make money? Your personal mail server? The thing that streams mp3s to the rest of the house? You mention DNS. Does that mean internal DNS for your house, or external DNS for your domain?

What do you mean by "Reliable"? Laptops almost certainly don't have the reliability you want for any of the above purposes (Heat build up, unreliable fans), but it's still a relative term.

What's the purpose of keeping a server running if your network goes down?

A suggestion: Several companies makes 12v power supplies for Mini-itx motherboards. These systems can be built to draw very little power in the first place, and eliminating two conversion cycles (The UPS and the AC power supply) gives you a big efficiency gain. Add a float charger big enough to keep up with the small power supply, and a couple deep cycle batteries, and you have a great DIY long-runtime UPS. I've not tried this, though it should be easy (getting a suitable charger is the only hard part). The mini-itx system gives you the low power draw of a laptop, but lets you design proper cooling into the case.

If you're not the DIY type, just get one of those low power mini-itx systems, and use an off the shelf UPS. Even a large UPS will cost you less than replacing laptop parts that will likely fail in 100% duty cycle use.

If this is for internet-facing services: These days, I'd suggest not trying to serve out of your house. Rent a VPS. They're dirt cheap, and even mediocre data centers have better connectivity, power, and hardware reliability than you're going to get out of a laptop at home.

Old Toshiba (1)

ghinckley68 (590599) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386380)

I have a old P2 266 Toshiba running my FTP server works fine. Its been up for over a year with out a reboot.

Laptops (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386429)

For a time, I ran a laptop as a dial-up/dial-in router for my local network (the clients were UPS-protected for up to 30mins). It worked fine but there are obviously considerations:

1) Heat
2) Movement
3) Upgradeability/Physical Space

Laptops get hot. Make sure yours runs sufficiently cool if you're going to leave it unattended for any length of time. Also, as other posters have mentioned, check the fans regularly or make it run fanless. Mini-ITX is a good idea if you can afford the extra power as it will ensure the computer is designed for the constant heat you want it to generate.

Laptops don't like moving parts - don't have it serving CD's or running off of the hard disk a lot - keep it simple, maybe even something like a Flash key/CF disk as the main drive and/or caching everything in RAM. Mini-ITX is good here because it can use standard drives etc.

You won't be able to use the parts you would normally use. RAID is out of the window unless you want to get into external storage and powering THAT as well - pointless, you may as well just use a PC with a UPS. Additionally, things like network ports etc. are normally not that prevelant, although you could make up for that with wireless etc. Mini-ITX is again a good substitute because it's completely upgradeable.

I used to run a two-modem dial-up/dial-in router for my local network from a laptop (an ancient IBM Thinkpad - something like a P133 with 16MB RAM) - that used the internal network port, the internal modem port, a PCMCIA modem port (check for non-winmodems if you're using Linux, they do exist) and a PCMCIA network port.

The software loaded all from a single floppy disc (a "Freesco" router), detected all the PCMCIA hardware and modems and performed the job admirably. The hard disk could easily be removed as it did nothing but storage in my setup. The screen was always switched off and it survived several power outages (for much longer than the client PC's). At least it meant that it KNEW it was going down and could inform people without losing their work, cutting their downloads/uploads, and allowed me to check websites about the power outage!

If nothing else, having the "server" go down last is always more comforting than it going while the clients are still running.

It's amazing how often power goes but ordinary phone lines are left enabled - I've surfed at 10Mbps over ADSL when the entire town has been in a blackout (streetlights, houses, the local train station, etc.).

My laptop router still functioned as dial-up/dial-in for several hours after the power had gone off without any special preparation (although putting it on an ordinary UPS too may have kept it going all day long!). If I had needed to, I could have sent/recieved email, browsed websites, allowed others to connect to my machine, connect to other machines, played games online etc. for many, many hours in the pitch-black.

It's not a daft idea but DON'T DO IT FOR SERIOUS STUFF. Plus, for someone setting up from scratch, it's much, much cheaper to do things properly with real UPS etc.

My laptop server uptime is 632 days today (1)

enterix (5252) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386559)

I lost my hosting ISP some time ago and I had to put a backup server quickly. All I had was ADSL line and old laptop. It is running OpenBSD, so there is no serious patching required, therefore I can afford uptime of 636 day. It is time to upgrade to new hardware, and I am considering another laptop for that. Advantages are: build-in keyboard and screen, APM and battery power, PCMCIA expansion, portable if needed, and the biggest for me - it is damn quiet!

and the battery ? (1)

weeb0 (741451) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386700)

I'm scared you'll have to change your battery pack often.

If your laptop is always plugged and sometime there is electricity shortage, il would not be very good on your battery.

I did plug my laptop on the wall plug everytime, and 6 months after, I can use the battery for about 30 mins. So, i'm not sure it would be a good idea.

The ups has internal controls to keep the battery in health, not in a laptop.

My laptop is a toshiba (damn) and I don't know if it would be the same problem with other brand.

Sure -- Use an External Drive If Possible (1)

InitZero (14837) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386805)

> Do portables make reliable Linux servers?

        I can't tell you the number of laptops I have deployed as
firewalls and catch-all linux servers in small offices.
        Lots of people have laptops with damaged or broken LCDs
and will just about give them away. Maybe it is the hinge that
is cracked or maybe the screen has been squished and is
bleeding in some places. In any case, the owner is upgrading
or replacing and the laptop is next to free.
        In terms of memory, network and processor power, laptops
are pretty much equal to desktops. The place they lag is the
disk -- both space and speed. In the cases where I have needed
more of either, I have gone external. An external firewire or
USB2 drive will beat most laptop drives and it will run forever
on a small UPS. Plus, it moves a great deal of the heat outside
the laptop (spin down the internal drive) and gives you a way
to easily recover the data if the repurposed laptop dies.
        Is a laptop a server? No. Is a generation-old as fast as a
desktop? No. Will a laptop do 93% of what most people need in
a home or small office linux server? Absolutely.


Domain Controller (1)

liquidice5 (570814) | more than 7 years ago | (#15386988)

I have a p3 600Mhz laptop that I broke the hinges for the lcd panel on, so now it runs my domain at home. It isnt the fastest Windows 2003 Server box I have ever used, but even with only 256MB RAM it is fine for DNS and all of my authentications.

With its oldish battery, I get 3-4 hours with the lcd off, plus plugging it into a UPS would probably get me even more.

I would definately go with something in the more "portable" end of the spectrum, the desktop replacements still eat the battery; but a laptop server is a definate possibility for low load situations, and even higher end stuff

Perhaps a SBC? (1)

toybuilder (161045) | more than 7 years ago | (#15387001)

If you're primarily serving DNS and mostly serving up static web content (and not doing a lot of writes to "disk"), and your primary concern is power consumption, you might be better off with an embedded linux SBC... (http://www.linuxdevices.com/articles/AT6449817972 .html)

Now, that said, why are you trying to keep your server up and running for a long time? Presumably, the client machiens are also down during these outages?

If the main reason is to have a basic PC with a built-in UPS, then, yes, laptops would probably be the most practical approach.

Re:Perhaps a SBC? (1)

vincecate (741268) | more than 7 years ago | (#15391597)

[...]you might be better off with an embedded linux SBC [...]
I would be happy with any fanless/diskless computer without vents. I have had about a dozen computers for about a dozen years and my failures have been due to disks breaking, fans breaking, and bugs getting into the computer and pooping (I live on a tropical island). The PIC [offshore.ai] would be great if I could boot Linux from a USB port.
Now, that said, why are you trying to keep your server up and running for a long time? Presumably, the client machiens are also down during these outages?
The clients are all over the Internet. With independent failure modes, I do not presume they are also down. :-)

Any Fanless/diskless/ventless system with nx-bit? (1)

vincecate (741268) | more than 7 years ago | (#15391653)

What I really want is a fanless/diskless/ventless system that has a CPU that supports the nx-bit. I think such a computer should last a very long time without any trouble. I think any server of any type on the Internet should have the nx-bit support. But finding this in a diskless/fanless/ventless computer has not been easy for me. I am not able to drop into Fry's etc though. Does anyone know of such a system?

I was told there was going to be a version of the PIC [offshore.ai] that would be willing to boot Linux. This would be perfect. But after 1.5 years of waiting, I don't want to wait any longer.

Re:Any Fanless/diskless/ventless system with nx-bi (1)

vincecate (741268) | more than 7 years ago | (#15391745)

The VIA C7 [via.com.tw] does have NX-bit support. So a VIA C7 mini-itx fanless motherboard [logicsupply.com] is almost what I need. Only question left is if I can put it in a case with no vents.

Re:Any Fanless/diskless/ventless system with nx-bi (1)

toybuilder (161045) | more than 7 years ago | (#15392160)

Cappuccinopc seems to have a few others that might do the job... (http://www.cappuccinopc.com/slimpro-sp625f-fanles s.asp for example)

Should be fine with one change.... (1)

MagnusDredd (160488) | more than 7 years ago | (#15387383)

There's no reason that a laptop shouldn't be used for a light duty server, with one major caveat. The drives on them are generally extremely slow and less reliable than their desktop counterparts.

The fix for this is rather simple provided you use an OS with a small footprint; like my file server's CLI-only Slackware Linux install (less than 1G). Replace the drive with a flash based 2.5" drive. They come in sizes of up to 8GBs for around $300 that I've found using Froogle [google.com]. An important addition to this would be to add enough RAM that you don't require much if any swapping, since I'm not aware of how much rewriting these drives will handle in real world usage.

The great thing about doing this is that it not only increases the reliability of your server (no critical moving parts remaining that will fail), but it will lower the power consumption of your laptop, adding greatly to the battery life. This being due to the fact that hard drives are one of the more power consumptive parts in a laptop. Futhermore it will seriously increase performance due to the fact that flash based laptop drives have lower seek times and probably better sustained throughput than even conventional desktop drives. (66MB/s sustained)

No Power = no uplink (1)

dankney (631226) | more than 7 years ago | (#15387695)

If your server is geared towards internet services, you're probably hosed. Even if your server remains up, what happens to the internet uplink?

Re:No Power = no uplink (1)

vincecate (741268) | more than 7 years ago | (#15391393)

My Internet link keeps working when the power goes out. It is just like the phones keep working when the power goes out, because it is also the phone company. My router is a linux box. Yes, I need a UPS for the hub and the DSL link, but they don't take much.

got this question once from a clueless sessional (1)

cecille (583022) | more than 7 years ago | (#15387718)

Sorry, a bit OT, but when I saw your question it immediately reminded me of a question I heard from this REALLY clueless sessional at my university. She taught a basic computer class distance ed and basically got the job because she's married to a prof in the department. One of those lecturers that would show up at your office and ask questions about how to do the assignments SHE set. And we're not talking rocket science here folks, we're talking how to use word and excel.

Anyway, at the time I was a TA for the lecture section, which was the same course code, but more like a real course with actual learning. Anywhoo, so she's trying to set up a web site for the course, so students can get web notes or something, and she comes over to ask us if she can set up a web server on her laptop. Seemed like an odd request, but we figured (stupidly) that she had a good reason to do it. So the other TA basically tells her some of the same stuff that was in here...watch the hard drive, put it somewhere it won't get moved around...and then we hit her very basic lack of understanding about ANYTHING having to do with common sense. She asked us if students would have access to the web site when she left for the day and TOOK HER LAPTIOP HOME. I think we held it together pretty well until she left, but I think it was one of the hardest things ever to hold in the sarcasm. I think we sent her over to the university computer services building with instructions to ask them to set up EVERYTHING. And she was the one TEACHING the damn course. I hate to see what happened to the students.

power? (1)

skinfaxi (212627) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388272)

Even if the laptop server stays up, isn't whatever network it's connected to going to go down if the power goes out? Routers, hubs, terminal servers, whatever, they all tend to like electricity, too.

Why not? (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 7 years ago | (#15388741)

There's nothing magical about a 'server' or a 'laptop' machine, they are all just computers. I've used laptops as servers for a long time (starting with a web server on a 486-33 with 8MB RAM and Windows 3.1) and I've had no problems with them.

In fact, laptops in my experience are more reliable than desktops. One reason is the limited number of configurations due to lack of expandability. The other is that laptops are somewhat 'premium' products and therefore made with higher quality. The main drawback is that this makes them more expensive, and you'll be paying for a display that gets little use.

It's also my experience that laptop hard drives are not markedly slower than desktop counterparts. People complaining about this should do benchmarks, noting practical usage rather than simply throughput, or shut the hell up. The RPM myth is just like the MHz myth. By simple physical arguments, smaller drives should have better seek times, and I see this every day in practical use.

Of course there's the general lack of expandability, and memory expansion might be a problem. But with light usage, neither HD nor RAM should not pose any problems.

Running my blog off my ibook (1)

mrraven (129238) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390274)

Be merciful http://treefunk.net/forum/ [treefunk.net] Apache/PHP Works great for the 20-30 visitors a day I get. .000001% of slashdotters will take it and my dsl line down faster than I can say UNCLE, now get off me already. :)

It's worked for me. (1)

lhand (30548) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390298)

I've been using an old laptop for an Internet DNS and web server (static pages only) for about three years now. It runs under Debian and I haven't had a single problem with it since it went in. The battery has kept it up when the power went out without a hitch (everything else is on an UPS). I used the laptop as an emergency replacement when the power supplies went out of both of my DNS servers at the same time.

I keep meaning to replace it, but it keeps working just fine. (I did get another box up as secondary DNS.) It is plenty fast, the hard disc was replaced once under warrenty then again a couple of months before it got pressed into service so I have some worry about the hardware lasting. But I put in a high quality drive--better than the warranty replacement--and it shows no signs of having a problem. And finally, a nice thing is that the laptop server is quiet and doesn't take up much room.

I recommend it, just watch out for hardware failures, if it is critical, get a spare. It's a good use for an old system.

Good luck.

laptop, power management, server (1)

itzdandy (183397) | more than 7 years ago | (#15390777)

i run a p3 1.33ghz thinkpad with centos.

i have power management turned down so the machine runs in the speedstep state of 1ghz max and 500 min. i did this because the p3 was getting a bit hot and i didn't need the extra performance that .33ghz offered. now the machine never runs the fan at max setting, even under heavy loads.

this machine does the following jobs:

samba server w/ 4 firewire drives(200gb each) in raid5 for 600gb.
groupware/web server/mail server

this machine gets a fairly heavy load with no problems. used to run great with onboard battery as UPSlike setup but when i added the firewire drives i had to put a real ups up for them. i run with 512mb ram on this machine and a 133mhz bus with no real I/O bottlenecks.


the real problem is expanding on a server for file serving as firewire is not the fastest storage system. also, 100mb ethernet is a bottleneck for me. no pcmcia laptop can take a 1gb nic as pcmcia/cardbus does not have the bandwidth for it. i have seen new thinkpads with gigabit on their pci-e bus, but thats a lot of money for a low end server with no expandability.

hope that info helps.

Good Heavens NO!!! (1)

MrLogic17 (233498) | more than 7 years ago | (#15391167)

In the name of all things Secure - NO!

If that laptop server has *any* security information on it, you're asking for trouble. Read up on the Microsoft's recommendations if you have a domain controller stolen. Yep- rebuild the entire domain.

It's even worse if you have Certificate Services installed. Feel like re-issuing certificates on every PC in the company?

Physical security is the lowest level of security, upon which all other security is based. Give a hacker (or the spooks) your server's hard drive, a little time, and anything can be extracted.

A laptop server, for anything but limited development or testing is a Very Very Bad Thing.

define your requirements, then meet them. (1)

BK425 (461939) | more than 7 years ago | (#15397510)

I volunteer for a non profit with four paid staff (and around 10,000 "members"). Every other weekend, they pack up their office staff and network and move to a show venue where members must be able to renew annual membership. I would not run anything other then a laptop in that situation.

Our laptop server is a win2k server with domain controller and ms sql server for 2-8 data entry personnel. It was setup this way before I volunteered, it works great for their situation. I would like to change the clunky nightly backup system for an easier to use scheduled network backup, and I'd like to find a more compact and secure way to transport 10 laptops... there are several incremental improvements I'd like to make but none of them would put the servers functions back onto a less physically rugged less compact workstation.

Not for business uses (1)

jbplou (732414) | more than 7 years ago | (#15397895)

Portables make horrible servers. No RAID, slower disks, single processor only(although you could get dual core). Also laptops are more likely to break. I notice some people saying they run Apache on thiers, well big deal that doesn't make it a business quality server that means it can run some low memory footprint software.

Probably not... (1)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 7 years ago | (#15398529)

For your needs, probably not... If the power goes out, your internet will probably go out as well. At best, using a laptop as a server will just mean that it lasts longer during a power outage.

It's probably not the best solution (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#15400896)

According to the information in your /. question, you're concerned about power, not portability or space. Since you're considering purchasing a machine, why not consider purchasing/building a machine with low power components, and spend the difference very good UPS?

I mean, you're still paying a premium for the miniturization on a laptop, and the result is a 2-3 hour built-in UPS. A good UPS, some of which will take additional external batteries, would run a low power machine for quite a while. The side advantage is you can add some redundancy to the machine, such as a simple RAID 0, which you couldn't do easily with a laptop. If you built it yourself, you can select components for low power consumption. I would look at some of the "silent" PC options, as they're probably going to use less power (less power = less waste heat = lower cooling demand = fewer/zero fans = low noise).

Can a laptop be used? Sure, I used one as a print server in my office for a while. Great for printers that are very picky about the drivers and pc-printer communication (Epson, are you listening?) and tend to choke on normal third party print servers. The advantage to me was that the screen was included with the device, and the whole thing could be stashed on a shelf near the equipment, which was remote from the file server. I don't think it's the best solution from a reliability standpoint, though.

Hurrican LX800 / Geode LX (1)

vincecate (741268) | more than 7 years ago | (#15406526)

I am now liking the Hurricane LX800 [lippert-at.com]. This has a fanless Geode LX [amd.com], which I think has the nx-bit. It has 2 ethernet and 4 USB-2 ports, onboard video, and much more. It uses only 5.3 watts. Works up to 85 C (that is really hot!). Rated with a 100,000 hours MTBF. With no disk, and 2 USB flash sticks in a RAID/mirror, I should not have hardware failures very often. And it seems the price is under $400.

Right tool for the job (1)

bpalmer (568917) | more than 7 years ago | (#15410903)

Soekris box (http://www.soekris.com/) running off a Compact Flash card and a small UPS.

You're done.
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